For many people trimming their dog’s nails can be one of the more challenging aspects of dog ownership. If the dogs nails are a dark color it can be difficult to judge how short to cut the nail before hitting the “quick”; the blood vessel in every nail. Many dogs dislike having their feet touched as this can be a very dominant behavior or, they may have had a negative experience in the past. Getting your dog used to having its feet handled is something that is best started in puppyhood.
Even though it can be scary, there are some important reasons to trim your dog’s nails, mainly to prevent injury. Following are three potentially painful consequences of not trimming their nails.
Torn Nails: If a dog’s nails are too long they can catch them on anything from carpet fibers to branches and rocks outside. This is especially common if your dog has dewclaws. If they pull hard enough the outer casing of the nail can be ripped off exposing the quick and nerve endings. This can be quite painful and it is common for these types of injuries to become infected. A trip to your local Vet is usually required to treat and in worst cases your dog may need to be sedated so the wound can be cleaned and repaired.
Damage to Paw Pads: If a nail, especially the dewclaws or “thumbs”, grows too long they often curl around on themselves and can grow into the pad. The sharp end of the nail pierces through the tough layer of skin over the pads and creates an open, ulcerated wound that is very swollen and painful as well as usually infected. The treatment and prevention for this needless injury is a simple nail trim. Pain management and antibiotics are also typically prescribed.
Overgrown Nails Cause Accidents – Dogs use their nails for traction and balance when walking or running. Nails that are too long can cause a dog to slip and fall more easily. Long nails cause a dog to place their feet differently, in a “plantigrade” position. In other words the nails “push” the dogs toes up and the “heel” comes down to balance, placing strain on the muscles and ligaments in the legs. Older, arthritic dogs find these changes to be particularly uncomfortable.
Nail trimming is a relatively easy way to avoid injury to your pet. If you feel uncomfortable doing it yourself your Veterinarian or Technician would be happy to help you. You should have your dog’s nails cut every one to two months depending on how fast they grow and how active they are. The nails should never grow so long that you can hear “clicking” on your floors.